Roman mosaics in Risan

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All residents and guests of Montenegro who want to see the remains of the residence of the ancient Roman noblemen come to the small ancient town of Risan, which is located in the Bay of Kotor near the popular resort town of Kotor. This museum in Risan, which represents the remains of a Roman villa built in the 2nd century AD, is also called "Roman mosaics". The main advantage of this historical and cultural monument is the floors, laid out in various mosaics.

This famous ancient landmark, which is now the oldest architectural monument in Montenegro, is about 2 thousand years old. At the moment the museum represents the foundation of the ancient Roman villa Urbana with various mosaic patterns on the floors in each room and the atrium in the middle. Mosaics are made of pebbles of three types - white (local), gray-blue and black (imported), having a square shape.

The Roman villa Urbana in Risan includes 7 different rooms for the family, covered with mosaic and 3 rooms for servants, in which only the land served as the floor. The villa was built in such a way that the top represents the sun, which in those days was the symbol of Rome, with the rays of sunlight coming out in a circle. In the center of the house there is a small inner garden with a swimming pool, designed to collect rainwater for the kitchen and bathrooms - the Atrium, from which the corridors lead to the rooms in circle. Currently, of all the rooms of the villa, the mosaic has survived only in five, one of which houses a unique mosaic depicting the dream god Hypnos in a half-lying position with crossed legs, which at the moment is the only mosaic in the world depicting this god.

It is worth noting that the Roman houses of the noblemen in the second century already had water supply and sewage systems, and the villas that were built at the end of the III century and in the IV century had even heated floors.

History of the city of Risan and Roman mosaics.

Risan is a very ancient city, which was first mentioned in the IV century BC as an Illyrian settlement under the name of Rhizon. It was the main city in the entire Bay of Kotor, which even bore its name - "Sinus Rhizonicus". At the beginning of our era, the city was conquered by the Romans, who called it Rhizinium. It flourished during the Roman rule (I-II centuries AD). Here were built huge villas, on narrow streets there was a round-the-clock trade, and also constantly came and sailed ships.

The remains of the villa were accidentally discovered by builders at the beginning of the 20th century, when they paved the way. Excavations were organized in 1930, but the found mosaics were again covered with earth till better times. The works resumed in 27 years, in 1957-59, and since 1960 this place has been protected by the state as a monument of ancient history. In the 70s, during the archaeological excavations, the foundation of this ancient house was completely reconstructed. As archaeologists have calculated, in those old times Urban's villa in Risan occupied 790 square meters, in which supposedly settled down the Roman legionaries.

At the moment the entire territory of the museum is fenced with a stone wall and is divided into sectors. From bad weather, antique values are protected by canopies.

Mosaic at Villa Urbana and its motives.

The most popular and interesting architectural elements among residents and visitors of Montenegro, when visiting the ancient Roman villa in Risan, there are the floors laid out by mosaic. The material for mosaics in due time served as pebbles of white, gray-blue and black colors. White pebbles were abundant in the area, but gray-blue were brought from other places. Of the stones were made tiny squares, of which masters of the ancient world laid out their works of art.
Roman mosaics at Villa Urbana in Risan, Montenegro
In 5 rooms in the villa there is a different mosaic with unique patterns that correspond to the purpose of the room:

- in the bedroom on the mosaic depicts a close-up god of sleep resting on the pillow - Hypnos;
- the room, which was intended for military advice, is decorated with images of a double battle ax;
- the mosaic in the former living room is an image of fish, octopus and other inhabitants of the sea, as well as a vine and other interesting geometric figures;
- in the dining room the mosaic is two-colored, in the center of which there is a rosette framed by the sun, and around it geometric motifs. Scientists believe that in these patterns something is encrypted, and they try to unravel the intent of the creators of the mosaics. Sometimes they succeed, but perhaps this is only their imagination.
- in the room where the owner rested, the floor was laid out with a simple "checker" of 289 fields. It's unlikely that the drawing has anything to do with playing chess, as theoretically the Romans could only be familiar with chess after Alexander the Great's trip to India. In addition, it is believed that chess was brought to Europe in the IX - X centuries by the Arabs, so, most likely, this is just a pattern, but scientists are still thinking about it.

Some rooms are still under restoration, so the exhibition is not yet available.

Also inside the villa there is another curious structure, which is a matter of dispute among scientists. There are two versions on the account of what it really is. The first is a cellar for storing amphorae with wine, butter, etc., in which it was supposed to be pretty cool. The second, somewhat absurd - this place could be a grave, since after the war human bones were found here, which is why such an assumption arose.
Cellar for storage of amphorae with wine and oil in the ancient Roman villa in Risan
To this day the villa is being gradually restored, archaeological excavations of new objects are constantly underway and, to date, most of the work has already been completed. During the excavations, fragments of walls, columns, capitals, ventilation windows are found, which are placed next to the foundations. Photos about the progress of restoration work can be seen here.

How to get to the Roman mosaics?​

To get to Risanby bus from almost every city in Montenegro, and already in the city to follow the signs to the Roman villa. It is located in the city center, near the main road. You can also rent a car, a motorcycle or take a taxi. Visit the Roman mosaics and the city of Risan can easily be combined with a trip to Perast, which is located several kilometers away.

For 2 euros you will get to the territory of the oldest villa and get a brochure with a description of all the mosaics in one of the 6 languages (including English). You can also use the service of a guide.

Anyone can visit the exhibition before lunch, as it is closed in the afternoon.

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